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Wings' Larkin learns locker-room lesson

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Four Red Wings have a 'friendly' wager on Saturday's Michigan-Michigan State game. Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller played at MSU, while Dylan Larkin and Luke Glendening went to UM. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Dylan Larkin learned a hard lesson this week.

Seems the former University of Michigan standout chafed the two Red Wings teammates who absolutely detest the Wolverines most – Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.

“I got Millsie razzed up a little much yesterday, so I kind of learned my limit with him,” Larkin said sheepishly as he sat next to Miller in the Wings’ dressing room.

Larkin wouldn’t reveal what he did or said that got Miller twisted, though it definitely involved Saturday afternoon’s in-state college football game pitting No. 4 Michigan State against No. 14 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“I kind of took it too far,” Larkin admitted. “We’re not going to go back to it. I apologized to Drew for crossing the line, but he’ll get me back.”

Asked if he thought that the Spartans in the room feared the Wolverines and new coach Jim Harbaugh, Larkin glanced over at Miller, who quickly said, “Don’t look at me. It’s your interview.”

The Wings’ dressing room has been buzzing all week with green-and-white and maize-and-blue trash talk between Larkin and Luke Glendening, and Miller and Abdelkader.

Miller called the 19-year-old Larkin the biggest trash talker of the four, though the rest of the team seems to be enjoying the levity it’s created on a team with so many former college athletes. There are 13 Red Wings – eight players and five coaches – who played collegiately.

“Yeah, it’s fantastic. I like it,” said Brendan Smith, who played at the University of Wisconsin, and still takes summer courses on the Madison campus. “I think there are a couple little bets between the four. I don’t know the deals, but it’s fun. These guys have this rivalry thing going.

“It’s exciting to be a college guy and see it.”

Until Larkin’s arrival, Glendening has kept relatively quiet about the UM-MSU rivalry. That’s because the Spartans have won six of the last seven gridiron meetings between the two schools.

But this year is different. Saturday’s game marks the first time since the late 1990s that both teams are ranked for this showdown.

“Huge football game,” Abdelkader said. “Michigan is favored. The line’s been moving around between seven and eight but I think it’s going to be a good game. Maybe Michigan State hasn’t played to the standard we are holding them to as a top five team in the country but they’ve found ways to win. It’s not the prettiest but I think they’ve got the leadership in the group in there that even though they’re battling a lot of injuries, they can get the job done. No matter what in these rivalry games I think you can always throw out the records. Every play counts, every play matters. Hopefully, I’ll be able to watch quite a bit of it.”

Having grown up in the state’s Upper Peninsula, Wings coach Jeff Blashill understands the importance of Saturday’s game. However, for someone who went to Ferris State and coached at Western Michigan, the game doesn’t have the same meaning.

“The cool thing about that rivalry is it’s a big thing in the state of Michigan,” Blashill said. “I love the fact that both programs are doing well. It certainly is getting a lot of attention in the state of Michigan.”

Some of the players hope they can watch some of the football game before they have to get ready to face-off against the Canadiens at Montreal’s Bell Centre.

Miller even joked that the Wings would forego the pregame warm ups to watch the end of the Spartans and Wolverines.

Told of Miller’s plan, Blashill said, “I don’t want that. So maybe I don’t like this rivalry.”

Niklas Kronwall
Defense  - DET
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 0 | +/-: 2
BALANCED D: Through the first three games of the regular season, ice time among the defensemen has been relatively even. With the exception of Niklas Kronwall, who is already averaging 21:26 of ice time, the other five – Mike Green (19:57), Jonathan Ericsson (19:34), Smith (19:15), Kyle Quincey (19:01) and Jakub Kindl (18:14) – are all within 1:43 of each other.

“If you look at our forward ice times they’re pretty balanced as well,” blashill said. “I have great trust in the 18 skaters that are dressed tonight. When you have great trust in each player you give them opportunities to play enough and you don’t care who they play against as much.

“Last game is the only game we hard-matched at all and we’ve had some matches throughout the other games. We think all six defensemen are very capable and as long as they continue to play that way they’ll continue to get ice time. We think the balance of ice time helps our group.”

Jimmy Howard
Goalie  - DET
Record: 2-0-0
GAA: 0.50 | Sv%: .977
GOALIE ROTATION: Jimmy Howard will get his third start of the season tonight against Carolina at Joe Louis Arena.

That means Petr Mrazek will start Saturday at Montreal.

Blashill also revealed his goalie rotation for next week’s three-game trip to Western Canada.

“Petr will play next Wednesday, and then they’ll both get a chance to play on the weekend.”

INJURY UPDATES: Blashill said Friday that defenseman Danny DeKeyser (foot) and forward Darren Helm (concussion) could possibly make their season debuts on Saturday.

According to Blashill, Helm had a setback on Thursday, however, the forward said I had some issues, “it wasn’t concussion-related I don’t think, so just move forward.”

Meanwhile, DeKeyser, who strained ligaments in his left foot in Pittsburgh Sept. 30 said he’s ready if needed.

“I’m chomping on the bit to get out there,” DeKeyser said. “Coming out of training camp you’re ready to go and ready to start playing and then you get a little setback. But that’s how things go sometimes. You just have to go with the flow and take it as it is and just be ready when you get your chance to play. I’ll be ready to go if I do get in tomorrow.”

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